Think about the last live sporting event you attended. Did you have great seats? Did you head in the wrong direction when you got to the concourse on a mission for nachos? Did you pick up a couple of jerseys for your kids? Did you miss a big play waiting in line for the restroom?

There are a lot of facets to fan experience. As home television screens have gotten larger and broadcasts crisper, it’s gotten harder to fill seats in stadiums. It’s difficult to compete with a stocked fridge and a comfy couch.

Difficult, but not impossible.

How Do You Define the ‘Fan Experience’?

I often hear from sports and entertainment clients who want to improve the fan experience. That term sounds great, but what does it really mean?

For starters, it means Wi-Fi. In today’s mobile device era, Wi-Fi is as essential as plumbing. It is also the first challenge, because putting reliable, robust Wi-Fi in a stadium or arena is a highly variable art form which can require finessing equipment locations in a new build, working around static features that predate the wireless world in a historical location or creating an adaptable setup that accounts for reconfigurable seating.

Wi-Fi is the basis for a whole ecosystem. A solid signal means fans can access their social media accounts and share their photos and reactions to gameplay. Apps can tie into wayfinding and beaconing systems that can help fans find their way to seats, a retail location to purchase a jersey, or the shortest bathroom line. Wi-Fi also provides sponsors with a platform to engage directly with fans, increasing the value of their advertising dollars.

Customizing Fan Engagement with Digital Signage

Digital signage is another area with big benefits. Going digital means that displays can be updated at will and customized to the event. I know of an arena that will play host to NHL hockey, NCAA basketball, a rodeo, a comedy show, monster trucks and the circus in a span of two months. With digital signage, the arena can feel like it was built specifically for each of these events in turn. And, should an emergency occur, stadiums and arenas equipped with digital signage have a tool that can help with crowd control and direction to keep everyone calm and guide them to safety.

Another trend in the in-venue fan experience is the reimagining of suites and other public areas of sports and entertainment venues. Suites are moving closer to (in some cases, almost on to) the playing field, and venues are starting to launch new “club” areas where fans can gather in a communal environment. Placing additional signage and displays in these areas allows for further and deeper fan engagement and new opportunities to attract sponsors.

The new digital signage and robust infrastructure can then help stadiums deliver content to fans, including exclusive stadium-only camera angles, replays, interactive games and statistics from the game.

Taking the Fan Experience Beyond Game Day

Fan experience can also mean more than the experience inside the stadium or the arena. That same app that is so useful on game day can become a way to turn a Saturday in the cheap seats into a weeklong event. Great content, like previews of the matchup or key plays to look out for, builds excitement and, over time, can convert single-ticket purchasers into season-ticket holders.

And why stop with the end of the season? Fans can stay engaged year-round, learning about new players or coaches, off-season training milestones, and more.

Getting Started with Improving the Fan Experience

Improving fan experience, in the abstract, can seem like a big, amorphous task. However, a few simple steps can put you on the right path.

Ask your fans what they want. Use the data you already collect. Define fan experience for your organization, and then you can find the right partner to deploy the tech you need.

Build it right, and you’ll find your fans will happily leave their couches for the excitement of the networked stadium.

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